Bart De Pontieu
What better time to resume editorship of Flash than with the 100th issue ? Yes, I know the front page says 101, but Kurt has given definite proof (in the previous issue) that I screwed up sometime around no. 64. Speaking of front pages, I want to thank the talented Chris Dorreman once again for the new look of the Flash front page. An interesting question is which satellite's flash period evolution is shown exactly on the front page. I think I have a good idea, but maybe you can send your guesses to me. The winner gets a free beer from me at Eurosom 2 (no, Bram, family is not allowed to join the competition ...). Oh, yes, there can only be one winner. Whoever is first wins.
Well, I guess I really should have started off with thanking Kurt Jonckheere, Tristan Cools and Jean De Weerdt for their efforts to provide you with a monthly (or somesuch) issue of Flash during this past 8 months. The past year has not exactly been an easy one for me (my own little annus horribilis) and it was comforting to see friends taking over when I was unable to do anything really (if it involved the slightest movement of any of my joints), let alone sitting behind a computer and edit Flash. This episode once again showed how good and smoothly-working our working group has become. And especially how much of a group we have become.
This is also evidenced by the recent shuffle of responsibilities in the BWGS. Tristan Cools has resigned as observations collector and Satorama writer. After 3 long years of doing a great job, Tristan thought it was time for someone else to take over this demanding job. Many thanks to Tristan for the endurance. I know from experience how though a job it can be, and I only lasted for 1 year... Kurt Jonckheere is, from now on, responsible for collecting the observations and transforming them into the PPAS-format. Observations should be sent to him from now on. Leo Barhorst will henceforth compile the Satorama-report and the program-files. So, Kurt and Leo take over Tristan's responsibilities. Tristan, by the way, has assured us he is not disappearing from the working group, but will devote himself more to observing now. The shuffle is not finished yet. Kurt Jonckheere resigns as VVS-contact person. Jan Vansteelandt takes over that job, i.e. Jan will promote our activities in the VVS (through Hellal, Astra, WGI, meetings, etc...). Jan has been member of JVS Quasar for some time now, and Kurt will assist Jan initially to ensure a smooth transition.
When did we decide all of this? Did you miss out on a meeting? In a way you did, yes. All of these changes were discussed and decided through Internet, during the month of April. Everyone in the list of addresses on the preceding page now has an e-mail address (except for Jean), and we regularly contact each other to discuss the workings of the BWGS, on our own private Dutch-speaking mailing list (contact me for details, as soon as you're on Internet). All of our satellite-related discussion on Internet, of course, take place on SeeSat-L. This mailing list now has 300 subscribers from all over the world and it truly has enriched the way I enjoy my hobby. This brings me to the next point, which is that our Internet-activities are increasingly becoming a major part of our activities. For those of you that are still Internet-less, it may seem as if we're not very active, with Flash appearing every 2 months (and this issue being particularly late). But if you regularly receive the Flash-disk, you may have read the SeeSat-L compilations, and noticed how much of Flash has been just a copy of what appeared on Internet first (and much earlier). This upcoming domination of Internet, though positive by itself, implies that Flash in its current form has a bleak future. I would like to invite everyone who is concerned about the future of Flash to write me with suggestions on how they see its future. Personally I think Flash should evolve from the BWGS newsletter aimed at maintaining contact between the members to a bimonthly magazine containing serious and lengthy reports on satellite observing projects. This issue is a start in that direction. I've left out the Observational Flashes simply because they have been, for some time now, exact copies of SeeSat-L messages and selecting the best out of the hundreds of messages that appeared during the past 2 months is a difficult job. What you get in this issue are thorough and lengthy reports on various projects, not necessarily of the BWGS: accelerations, spy sats, rotation axises (DRAP has been revived!) and a bit of Jonathan's Space Report, though I'm in doubt whether the next issue will still contain JSR. I don't know whether the future of Flash that I envision is feasible, since one needs support and articles for that. So, your reactions are much appreciated. If the response is not adequate, it is very well possible that this volume is Flash's last (i.e. the last issue would then appear in December). By the way, the next issue will appear at the end of June already, to catch up with the schedule. This issue is also thicker to compensate for the 24 page issue of January.
This issue also contains a first progress report of Eurosom 2. The program is really very promising, I think. I hope our overseas speakers will be welcomed by a healthy attendance this time around. Check out the progress report for details on how to register.
Tristan Cools readied the 6th (yearly) version of our database PPAS in April. This version contains almost 39000 observations of flashing satellites, a truly mind-staggering number. Thanks as always to all observers and coordinators involved in collecting this database over the past 30 years. I may interest our observers to hear that I am planning on presenting a talk about the PPAS at the 31th COSPAR meeting in Birmingham in July in the session on Space Debris. I am also planning on using some DRAP results for talks at other space debris related conferences. This work and the talks are supported by my boss here at the Max-Planck-Institut for extraterrestrial Physics, so in a sense it's a dream come true, since I can work on my hobby (well, not continuously of course) and get paid for it! So, you're bound to see some more articles on these topics in the upcoming issues of Flash, since I can devote more time to it (and without guilt :-).
That's all from me this month. More next month. Send me some articles if you want to see another thick issue.